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Archive for Saturday, November 22, 1997

PLEASANT GROVE CURVE PROVES HARD TO HANDLE

November 22, 1997

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Several accidents a year occur at the curve, a handful of which cost Don Walker and his family some repair work.

When Don Walker came home Thursday night and discovered his mother-in-law's house had been hit by a car, he just racked it up with all the others.

"It's just a night out," said Walker, who lives next door at 808 E. 1250 Rd., just south of Pleasant Grove on U.S. Highway 59.

His own house has been hit a few times, as has the barn across the street and trees in neighbors' yards.

Walker retires his mailbox about once a year because it is beat up from car hits, and someone in his family is usually the first responder when speeding cars end up in the ditch across the road.

"We've got some stories," he said, adding that he's lost count of the accidents he's seen on the curved portion of the highway.

With cars from both directions misjudging the steep curve of the road beginning just south of his house and plowing into his yard, Walker said he has given up trying to keep bushes and flowers growing.

"I've been thinking about working on my house and porch, but I don't know," Walker said.

Until seven years ago, fixing the yard and mailbox was his main problem.

"About 2 one morning, my wife woke me up and said, `There's a car on the porch,'" he said. "I told her she was dreaming."

But a quick look out the window before nodding back off revealed a Volkswagen filled with young people sitting right at the front door.

"It's mostly kids driving too fast," Walker said. "Usually in good weather, too."

The 20-mile stretch of the road in southern Douglas County sees regular fender benders and occasionally a fatality. In 1996, a Lawrence High School sophomore died in an accident near the curve. In 1995, five people died on the road, one just south of the curve. In 1993, a drunk driver lost his life when he failed to follow the curve's southbound lane.

Despite the deadly accidents and house clippings, Walker says he and his family have never thought about moving from their home of 35 years.

"There's no sense in worrying about it," he said. "I do think about it. We just live with it."

He said he has called various county offices in the past in hopes of having the speed limit reduced or more signs installed in the area.

"I don't know what the cure would be," he said. "But I know I probably take my life in my hands every time I mow the grass."

Officials with the Kansas Department of Transportation revealed earlier this month that an engineering study is under way for U.S. Highway 59 between Lawrence and Ottawa. In the past, both the city of Lawrence and the county have advocated widening the road and adding better shoulders to it.

-- Selena Stevens' phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is selena@ljworld.com.

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